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Space Weather Update: 08/25/2016

By, 08/25/2016

QUIET SUN: With no sunspots actively flaring, the sun's X-ray output is flatlining. The quiet is likely to persist. NOAA forecasters say there is no more than a 1% chance of strong flares for the next three days. Solar flare alerts: text or voice

A LOVELY NIGHT IN TASMANIA: A solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field, and this is causing auroras to dance around the poles. Jo Malcomson saw them on Aug. 24th from South Arm, Tasmania:


"In the small hours of Wednesday morning, we enjoyed a naked eye glow across the horizon with some beams visible on the camera," says Malcomson, who left the shutter open long enough to capture a swirl of stars behind the auroras. "It was a lovely night."

The lights should subside tonight. NOAA forecasters have lowered the chances of geomagnetic storms on Aug. 24-25 to 15% as Earth begins to exit the solar wind. More images from the waning storm may be found here. Aurora alerts: text orvoice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

SPACE WEATHER BALLOON OVER THE ANDES: and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have just released four space weather balloons in less than three days--from Chile, California, Oregon, and Washington. The rapid-fire launches are in support of the Intercontinental Space Weather Balloon Network, which spans 3 countries, two continents, and more than 10,000 miles. A highlight so far is the Chilean launch of Aug 20th. That balloon reached an altitude of 37.4 km (122,700 feet), a record for our 5 year-old ballooning program. Here is the space weather payload soaring over the Andes:


The purpose of our (exhausting) activity is two-fold:

First, it's a giant experiment in atmospheric radiation. Our payloads contain radiation sensors that allow us to measure cosmic rays from deep space. We will find out how this penetrating form of radiation varies around the Americas at altitudes ranging from ground level to the stratosphere. The results will be especially interesting in Chile, where the balloon ascended into the outskirts of the South Atlantic Anomaly, a high radiation zone caused by a weakness in Earth's magnetic field.


Second, we're practicing for Aug. 21, 2017--the date of the Great American Solar Eclipse. One year from now, we will launch more than a dozen balloons into the path of totality to photograph the eclipse from the stratosphere and create a unique movie of the Moon's shadow sweeping across North America. Such an ambitious project requires practice, and we're starting now.

Stay tuned for updates as the launches continue.

Realtime Space Weather Photo Gallery

NASA REGAINS CONTACT WITH LOST SPACECRAFT: In a surprising development, NASA has regained contact with the STEREO-B spacecraft after two years of silence. STEREO-B, which can see the farside of the sun, went quiet in 2014 after mission controllers tested a communications reset procedure. Unfortunately, STEREO-B failed the test. Since then, NASA has regularly attempted to regain contact using the Deep Space Network. On Aug. 21st, they succeeded, managing to receive a downlink carrier for several hours. In the days and weeks ahead, engineers will take steps to assess the health of STEREO-B and return it to service. Solar flare alerts: text or voice

Realtime Noctilucent Cloud Photo Gallery

Realtime Sprite Photo Gallery

 All Sky Fireball Network

Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth's atmosphere and many other characteristics. Daily results are presented here on

On Aug. 25, 2016, the network reported 29 fireballs.
(27 sporadics, 2 Northern delta Aquariids)



In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point--Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]


 Near Earth Asteroids

Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.

On August 25, 2016 there were 1726 potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid


Miss Distance


2016 PS26

Aug 25

13.8 LD

33 m

2016 PA40

Aug 29

14.5 LD

54 m

2004 BO41

Sep 7

38.9 LD

1.1 km

2015 KE

Sep 10

14.9 LD

23 m

2009 UG

Sep 30

7.3 LD

101 m

2100 Ra-Shalom

Oct 9

58.3 LD

1.1 km

Notes: LD means "Lunar Distance." 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256 AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach.

 Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere

Situation Report -- Oct. 30, 2015Stratospheric Radiation (+37o N)

Cosmic ray levels are elevated(+6.1% above the Space Age median). The trend is flat. Cosmic ray levels have increased +0% in the past month.

Sept. 06: 4.14 uSv/hr (414 uRad/hr)

Sept. 12: 4.09 uSv/hr (409 uRad/hr)

Sept. 23: 4.12 uSv/hr (412 uRad/hr)

Sept. 25: 4.16 uSv/hr (416 uRad/hr)

Sept. 27: 4.13 uSv/hr (413 uRad/hr)

Oct. 11: 4.02 uSv/hr (402 uRad/hr)

Oct. 22: 4.11 uSv/hr (411 uRad/hr)

These measurements are based on regular space weather balloon flights: learn more.

Approximately once a week, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly "space weather balloons" to the stratosphere over California. These balloons are equipped with radiation sensors that detect cosmic rays, a surprisingly "down to Earth" form of space weather. Cosmic rays can seed cloudstrigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Our measurements show that someone flying back and forth across the continental USA, just once, can absorb as much ionizing radiation as 2 to 5 dental X-rays. For example, here is the data from a flight on Oct. 22, 2015:


Radiation levels peak at the entrance to the stratosphere in a broad region called the "Pfotzer Maximum." This peak is named after physicist George Pfotzer who discovered it using balloons and Geiger tubes in the 1930s. Radiation levels there are more than 80x sea level.

Note that the bottom of the Pfotzer Maximim is near 55,000 ft. This means that some high-flying aircraft are not far from the zone of maximum radiation. Indeed, according to the Oct 22th measurements, a plane flying at 45,000 feet is exposed to 2.79 uSv/hr. At that rate, a passenger would absorb about one dental X-ray's worth of radiation in about 5 hours.

The radiation sensors onboard our helium balloons detect X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.


Current Conditions

Solar wind
speed: 503.9 km/sec
density: 3.5 protons/cm3

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1834 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1
1621 UT Aug25
24-hr: B1 1621 UT Aug25
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1800 UTDaily Sun: 25 Aug 16All of these sunspots are magnetically simple and quiet. None poses a threat for strong solar flares. Credit: SDO/HMI

Sunspot number: 43
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 25 Aug 2016

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 20 days (9%) 
2015 total: 0 days (0%) 

2014 total: 1 day (<1%)
2013 total: 0 days (0%)
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)

Updated 25 Aug 2016

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 78 sfu

explanation | more data
Updated 25 Aug 2016

Current Auroral Oval:


Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 4.8 nT
Bz: 2.0 nT north

explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1834 UTCoronal Holes: 25 Aug 16
Solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole could reach Earth on Aug. 30. Credit: NASA/SDO.Noctilucent Clouds NASA's AIM spacecraft has suffered an anomaly, and a software patch is required to fix it. As a result, current noctilucent cloud images will not return until late September 2016.


Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, PolarUpdated at: 08-06-2016 16:55:02

NOAA Forecasts

Updated at: 2016 Aug 24 2200 UTC


0-24 hr

24-48 hr


01 %

01 %


01 %

01 %

Geomagnetic Storms:
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth's magnetic field are given for three activity levels: activeminor stormsevere stormUpdated at: 2016 Aug 24 2200 UTCMid-latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

10 %


05 %

05 %


01 %

01 %

High latitudes

0-24 hr

24-48 hr


15 %

15 %


20 %

20 %


15 %

15 %